They are considered the “Oscars” of further education, and this year’s Tes FE Awards – now in their seventh year – were the biggest ever, with a record number of entries and categories.
In a year of significant change for the sector, the institutions’ ability to tailor provision to employer needs and adapt to an everchanging FE environment without losing sight of learners were common themes among the winners. They were named after 14 expert judges rigorously assessed hundreds of entries for the 17 awards categories.
Foxes Academy in Minehead scooped not only the first-ever award for specialist provider of the year, but also the top prize of overall FE provider of the year. The college boasts an employment rate of more than 85 per cent for its students – compared to an average of 6 per cent employment rate for people with learning disabilities.
'Cake and bubbles'
Kerry Grigg, vocational programme manager at Foxes Academy, said: “It’s very much deserved for our learners to get that recognition. We told them if we won then we would have a celebration, so there will definitely be some cake and bubbles now.”
The 800-strong audience at Grosvenor House in London was on its feet in a standing ovation for the first award winner of the evening – Jill Westerman, principal of Northern College, who picked up the lifetime achievement award. The judges said that under her leadership, Northern College had come to embody “the best of adult education and learning”.
Lowell Williams, chief executive of Dudley College of Technology, who was hailed as FE leader of the year, told Tes: “So many people have worked so hard in Dudley over the last 10 years that it’s good the college gets some recognition. It’s a bit of a surprise that it comes to me personally. It’d have been better to come to the college, but it’s great to have it.”
He added: “We need to celebrate what we do in further education because it’s special. It’s really important.”
The award for FE college of the year was won by Fareham College in Hampshire. Leah Palmer, its director of curriculum, said that staff were “absolutely ecstatic” to win the award. “I think our employer’s programme is top-class. We listen to the needs to industry and are responsive to the needs of employers,” she added. The college’s director for students Gill Sommers commented: “Students are our number-one priority. That’s the backbone of what we do.”
The training provider of the year award went to HIT Training, with the judges paying tribute to its “great staff development and amazing learner and employer satisfaction”, while Birkenhead Sixth Form College was crowned sixth-form college of the year. “This award is deserved recognition,” said the judges.
The second new category, adult and community learning provider of the year, was won by Lancashire Adult Learning.
Tes FE editor Stephen Exley said: “While the stars of the event were undoubtedly the award winners, it was inspiring to see more than 800 people gathered to celebrate the successes of the FE sector as a whole. Colleges from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were all represented – and all types of providers were present, from specialist institutions to adult and community learning providers. Thanks to everyone involved for helping to make to event such a success.”
The Tes FE Awards “celebrate the excellent work taking place in our colleges up and down the country,” according to education secretary Damian Hinds.
Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton said: “I want to congratulate all of the excellent institutions and people who won an award. I also want to thank everyone who’s working to provide high-quality education and training across the country.”
She added: “Further education plays an important part in creating opportunities for people, reducing inequality and making sure businesses have the skills they need to get on. The Tes FE Awards are a great way of recognising exceptional leadership in the sector.”
The Tes FE Awards were sponsored by the Education and Training Foundation
The winners of the Tes FE Awards 2018
* Overall FE provider of the year Foxes Academy, Minehead
* Lifetime achievement Jill Westerman, Northern College, Barnsley
* Employer engagement Stephenson College, Coalville and Nottingham
* FE leader of the year Lowell Williams, Dudley College of Technology
* Apprenticeship programme of the year Busy Bees Training, Burntwood, Staffordshire (Highly commended: City of Glasgow College)
* FE college of the year Fareham College
* Training provider of the year HIT Training
* Sixth-form college of the year Birkenhead Sixth Form College
* Adult and community learning provider of the year Lancashire Adult Learning
* Specialist provider of the year Foxes Academy, Minehead
* Outstanding use of technology for improving teaching, learning and assessment Basingstoke College of Technology
* Assessor of the year Keith Haynes, Bedford College Group
* Teacher of the year Alison Scattergood, East Durham College
* Best teaching and learning initiative Barking and Dagenham College
* Support for learners Kirklees College, Huddersfield
* Contribution to the local community ELATT
* Professional services team of the year Central Bedfordshire College